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Ether inhaler with water bath, Europe, 1847-1855

Ether was first used as an anaesthetic during an operation in 1846 to remove a tooth. This inhaler has a water bath underneath the bottle which heats up the liquid ether to help its evaporation and so produce vapours. The temperature of the water bath controlled how much ether was vaporised and the dose the patient received. The rubber tubing connects the bottle to the wooden face mask. The face mask has a mouthpiece for the patient to bite down on. John Snow (1813-1858), the first specialised anaesthetist in the United Kingdom, invented this type of inhaler in 1847.

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Glossary: water bath

In chemistry, a vessel containing water, in which a container holding a substance to be heated or evaporated can be immersed

Glossary: anaesthetic

An agent that causes insensitivity to pain. Applied to either the whole body (general anaesthetic) or a particular area or region (local anaesthetic).

Glossary: inhaler

A device for breathing in a drug in order to deliver it to the airways or lungs.

Glossary: ether

A volatile liquid (resulting from the action of sulphuric acid upon alcohol) formerly used as an anaesthetic. Ether was usually inhaled.